For professional opera singer Emily Geller Hardman, who was pregnant with her second child, dreams of a natural birth came true a little too literally when she delivered her baby in the back of the family car.
Acting as doctor, midwife, and doula for herself, Emily gave birth to her baby girl even before paramedics arrived.
“It felt empowering,” Emily, 35, told Daily Voice. “I did it all by myself. And I actually got most of what was on my birth plan, except for the location and providers.”
The celebrated mezzo-soprano was at a wedding in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, three hours away from her home in New York, when her labor began, reported Daily Voice.
After attending the May 14 ceremony and party with husband Travis Hartman, CEO of Cantata Media, the couple fell asleep in their hotel room. Emily was woken at midnight by her water breaking; she was 37 weeks pregnant, the fluid was clear, and she had no contractions, so she tried to rest.
“I thought I had so much time,” the singer told the outlet. Yet three hours later, Emily was woken again by contractions that were “instantly intense.”
She and Travis set off on the four-hour drive to their chosen hospital, Danbury Hospital in Connecticut, the report said.
They never made it past the highway shoulder in Lebanon.
“It went from, ‘Pull over,’ to ‘There’s a baby,’ in less than a minute,” Emily told Daily Voice.
Using an app to monitor her contractions, Emily noticed their increasing frequency and intensity. She couldn’t get comfortable. Pulling over, the laboring mom gleaned brief respite from standing up, yet, hours away from their destination, they had to keep moving.
“I was focused on relaxing my body and breathing through the contractions, acknowledging that there was nothing I could do to stop what was happening,” she told the news outlet. “I had to go along for the ride and trust my body.”
Emily had delivered her first child, Wesley, now a toddler, via planned C-section, so natural birth was new terrain. But the singer had trained diligently. Using warm-up techniques—lip trills, slow exhalations, and low moans—Emily remained calm, all the while knowing she was likely to give birth without her support team.
She tried not to push, but the impulse was overwhelming. She felt the baby’s head. Travis feared it was unsafe to pull over again, but with Emily’s next contraction, their baby girl, Rosemary Claire Hardman, made her dramatic entrance into the world.
It was 5:47 in the morning. Cradling Rosemary to her chest, Emily noticed the baby’s umbilical cord had snapped.
“We knew to keep her warm and to try to stimulate her,” she told People, “and if there’s any kind of mucus or gunk in her mouth or nose to try to get that out. We rubbed her down with some towels, and she was breathing.”
Travis dialed 911, and paramedics arrived within 10 minutes to take care of the newborn and her heroic mom. Emily and Rosemary were discharged from St. Peter’s University Hospital in New Brunswick 24 hours later, in perfect health.
Neither Emily nor Travis have any regrets. However, weeks later, Travis felt that they felt they should have left for the hospital when the water broke. Travis told People that waiting seemed “pretty reasonable” at the time, thinking that it “could be a 40-hour labor.”
“Birthing in the car isn’t comfortable and I would have loved a doula, midwives, lavender oil, and a tub,” Emily told Daily Voice. Yet birthing her baby unassisted was “empowering” for the mom of two, who maintains that other pregnant women could surely do the same if they had no choice.
“In the end, I think birthing babies is a natural process that for the most part goes well, and doesn’t need a lot of intervention,” she said, adding women who give birth are “rockstars” no matter how their babies are born.
“The thing about birth is that birth happens everywhere, and people give birth in all sorts of locations,” she told USA Today. “It just so happens that mine was in a car.”